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Originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News, April 2010; written by Lisa Pearson.

About 2 ½ years ago, we launched one of our most successful ventures here at the public library. We began offering free access to online audiobooks through our participation in the ListenAlaska consortium. We’ve added Mac and iPod-friendly titles, we’ve expanded to music, and we’ve even started offering mobile access, so you can download directly to your iPhone or Blackberry.

We might just have to change the name of the service, however, since you can now do a lot more than listen to ListenAlaska titles; you can read them! For the last few months, we have had library patrons asking when we would begin offering ebooks, so we took their suggestion to the annual meeting of all the ListenAlaska consortium members, and it turned out their staff members had been getting the same question. Now, thanks to your input, there are over 700 ebook titles available for free through our website:

Whether you’re looking for the brand-new Masie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear, a page-turning (or screen-scrolling) thriller by Michael Connelly, a history of the Mafia, or “Knitting for Dummies”, there are plenty of titles to choose from. You can learn how to use Google SketchUp 7, cook a quick meal with Emeril, practice pilates or read up on job interview skills. There are even kids’ books available, if you’re willing to let your 9-year-old use your $250 eReader.

Some of the ebook titles are in the old .pdf format, but we’ve tried to get as many titles as we can in the jazzier ePub format, which works well with devices such as the Sony eReader or the Barnes & Noble Nook. To browse through these titles, just go to the ListenAlaska site and click on the “view all eBooks” link in the grey navigation bar. If you would like to narrow your focus a little more, start with the “Advanced Search”, limit the format to ePub, and then select your Subject, Title or Author. Titles can be checked out for either one or two weeks, whichever you prefer, and you can have 10 titles checked out at a time.

Much like the audiobook portion of ListenAlaska, our new ebook service does require that you download a free piece of software the first time you use the system. Once you’ve checked your ebook out, you can link directly to the Adobe website where you will be asked to download the Adobe Digital Editions software, which performs the same function for the ebooks that the Overdrive Media Console does for our audio titles. If you have any questions, there is a handy “Digital Help—FAQ” link on the ListenAlaska site which will walk you through the download and activation process (remember, you only have to do this once!). One of the questions we’ve heard about our new ebook service is “Can I use my Kindle?” Nope, sorry, but the ListenAlaska system does not work with Amazon’s proprietary software (perhaps in the future).

If you would like to experience a more human connection with an author than through a digital file, please come down to the public library on Wednesday, May 5th to hear children’s author Bruce Hale discuss his craft. He is the creator of the really wonderful Chet Gecko mysteries, as well as the new Underwhere series. The fun starts at 6:30 pm, and he will be signing books after the reading.

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